Africa grows, but youth get left behind

It may have one of the fastest growing economies in the world — but if you’re young and out of work in Africa, the future remains bleak.

The search for employment is a daily struggle for 24-year-old Sherrif Mohamed. He’s one of millions of young unemployed Africans whose lives have stalled, despite economic growth across the continent.

Sherrif lives in Egypt, where until recently he was pursuing a university education. The revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak forced him out of school and into a job market, which has continued to worsen. The uprising kept tourists away and investors out — and Egypt is yet to recover.

Around 30% of 18 to 29-year-olds are now out of work — a figure that’s echoed across Africa. Sherrif’s lack of a qualification narrows his employment prospects further.

“Now there are no jobs whatsoever,” he said. “I’ve tried working in restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores and lately worked at my brother’s store. But the wages are not sustainable at all.”

Thousands of miles away in Kenya, more disillusioned young adults walk the corridors of the University of Nairobi. Unlike Sherrif, they’ll get to complete their studies and enter the job market as skilled professionals. But with Kenya’s youth unemployment rate standing at 40%, they feel their prospects of work are equally slim.

Eunice Kilonzo is a promising student on the campus. She said: “I’m competing with around 700 people to get the same job, probably in the same place. So the chance of getting a job is pretty thin.”

She places the blame firmly at the feet of her government. Eunice feels the job market will not improve in line with economic growth until the education system is revamped.

“If the market is way beyond your education level, there won’t be productivity. We need to change everything about the education system. I cannot go into the library and study a book that was published in 1969. We are in 2012.”

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